Earlier during the winter the crew in charge at Fangraphs opened up their corner of the internet to the community for self publishing. It’s something they had done in the past, but had shut down for a little bit. It was re-opened on a limited basis and on Tuesday Christian Tinory had an article about Cincinnati Reds reliever Amir Garrett and how he’s looking like Andrew Miller out of the bullpen in some ways.

The thought behind the comparison is that when Andrew Miller went from bad starter to elite reliever the biggest change he made was adding a whole lot of velocity to his slider. From 2011 to 2012 his slider went from 78.8 MPH to 83.4 MPH. That took the pitch from a below-average one to an elite one. Tinory then began to look to see if any other recent pitchers had been able to make a big increase in their slider velocity.

At the top of the list from the 2017 to 2018 seasons was none other than Amir Garrett. The Reds reliever made a similar move from the rotation to the bullpen between seasons. His velocity jumped from 79.4 MPH to 83.6 MPH with the change – easily the most in baseball. And much like that of Miller, Garrett saw his slider improve dramatically. In 2017 his slider was worth -0.75 runs per 100 sliders thrown. In 2018 the pitch was worth 2.49 runs per 100 sliders thrown.

The difference between where that rates out is quite large. Amir Garrett’s slider was rated 114th out of 158 pitchers with at least 70 innings thrown in 2017. In 2018, using the cutoff of 60 innings, his slider ranked 14th out of 209 pitchers. It turned into an elite offering out of the bullpen after being a well below-average one in the rotation.

It wasn’t just the slider that improved, though. The fastball also played much better for Amir Garrett. It was still a below-average offering, but made big strides from the previous season. In 2017 the pitch was -2.58 runs per 100 thrown. That improved to just -0.50 runs per 100 thrown in 2018. The velocity may have played a big role there, too. The fastball gained 3.4 MPH from one year to the next.

The jump in velocity came for Amir Garrett on all of his pitches. Some of that was likely due to coming out of the bullpen. He didn’t need to pace himself like he did as a starter. But some of that was also likely due to his health. Garrett pitched through a hip issue in 2017, but had PRP injections, as well as stem cell injections after the season to help him recover.

It’s not likely to see another big jump in velocity for Amir Garrett in 2019. But what could be interesting is to see if the new pitching coach, and assistant pitching coach who are looking far more into analytics will be able to get a bit more out of not only Garrett, but other pitchers on the staff. With regards to Garrett specifically, a small boost in the pitch value for his fastball or slider, and a slightly different rate at which he uses them could make for a rather big difference in 2019 for the reliever.

Photo Credit: Hayden Schiff. Licensing for the photo can be found here.

12 Responses

  1. WVRedlegs

    This is very interesting. If Garrett can take a step forward like Tinory suggests, that will be huge for the Reds bullpen. It just makes the bullpen stronger.
    Tinory’s article didn’t touch on it, but was there any difference in Garrett’s spin rate on his slider from 2017 to 2018?

    • WVRedlegs

      Fascinating lesson on spin rate. It covers most pitches including the slider. It is 2 years old though, but it is from the masters. Good Q&A in the comments at end of article. The super-slow motion video of pitches from a machine compared side-by-side with an actual pitcher is neat just to watch. It makes you feel like you are back in Science class. But it is Baseball Science.

      https://www.drivelinebaseball.com/2016/11/spin-rate-part-ii-spin-axis-useful-spin/

      • LWBlogger2

        Baseball science is the best science.

  2. Phil

    I’m very interested to see if the new coaching staff can help unlock the potential of the Reds young pitchers, Garrett included.
    Garrett, Mahle, Stephenson, Reed and Finnegan were all top-100 prospects at one time and haven’t yet lived up to that billing. With Wood, Roark, Hughes & Hernandez on the last year of their contracts, getting a least 1 quality starting pitcher and 1 or 2 quality bullpen arms out of that group would really help the 2020 pitching staff.

  3. matthew hendley

    I remember Garrett Saying something to the extent that he wished to be a reliever. That is a shame considering what a success he had coming up into the rotation originally. Defeating some of these mental blocks should make him be a much more productive element to the Reds

  4. Klugo

    Ton of potential. That’s for sure.

  5. AllTheHype

    Nice work with this article Doug. Without digging into the analytics, I suspected there was a reason Garrett was not mentioned as a rotation candidate recently.

  6. Roger Garrett

    His stuff plays big time and at times last year he was just dominate.Got to think he can be again and for me its just repeating that delivery.As with all pitchers coming out of the pen,just throw strikes and he wins the battle most of the time.

  7. old-school

    RLN had a similar article 2 years ago positing that Eugenio Suarez could be set for a breakout year. What fun has it been watching him the last 2 years do just that.

    I am a big fan of Garrett. I wrongly predicted in 2017 he would win 10 games and finish in the top 5 for ROY. I still am high on him though and if healthy, could have a big year. With Bell and DJ, the calculus on being in the bullpen is different than when Dusty or Price or Riggleman managed. I am looking forward to more Garrett v Rizzo battles and situational baseball with Garrett at the forefront.

      • Old-school

        Stupid Cubs.
        This year Yasiel Puig is at the front of the scrum with Matt Kemp . Let’s see how chippy the Cubbies are in 2019.

  8. Rls321321

    Garrett, altho needed in the pen would have the chance to develop into very good starter and that’s where I think he wants to be. Nothing wrong with starting out in the pen, but this guy could makes tons of $ as a SP sooner rather than ltr.